UA season opener should be home football seriesBy Hunter Richey | 09/08/2016 2:13am
Bryant Denny stadium is located in the heart of campus. CW File
With the football season underway, students and fans alike will soon be entering Bryant-Denny Stadium on an almost weekly basis to watch the Crimson Tide take on their slated opponent. Time honored traditions will ensue, and alumni will return to the campus they love. I grew up an Alabama fan, with some of my earliest memories coming from time spent with my parents here on campus, and I can count on one hand the number of home games I have missed since 2000. While there are certainly games that stand out as obvious classics, a particular memory of mine regards an often forgotten contest.
In 2003, the Number 1 ranked team in the nation paid a visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium. It was the second week of the season, and unranked Alabama was set to take on the Oklahoma Sooners, the preseason pick to win the national championship. While top ten matchups are a regular occurrence in today’s SEC, the game against the Sooners received unprecedented hype, as big time games had only recently moved to Tuscaloosa from Birmingham’s Legion Field.
Although Oklahoma won the game, the final score was not what was so memorable. What left an impact on me was the magnitude of two major non-conference teams, along with their respective fan bases, meeting at an on-campus venue. While kickoff specials at neutral sites are an incredible experience for all involved, there is something extra special involved with visiting the campus of an opponent. Seeing and taking part in the tradition of another school at an on-campus stadium adds a personal aspect to a matchup that is unmatched at neutral sites. Imagine being a student at another school and experiencing the Quad for the first time on a gameday, or being a player experiencing a packed out Bryant-Denny to open the season on the road. Campus appeal is something that sets college football apart from the NFL and is something that makes it attractive even to those who may only be passive fans of their team.
Interestingly, seven of the last nine Alabama seasons have kicked off with neutral site contests. These games in Atlanta and Dallas have been great matchups, and great fan and player experiences, but what has been missing from Alabama’s schedule is a major non-conference home-and-home matchup that pairs two power football programs against each other in their respective home stadiums. In the last sixteen years, Alabama has had such matchups with UCLA (2000-2001), Oklahoma (2002-2003) and Penn State (2010-2011), but has pushed back proposed series with Michigan State and Georgia Tech.
Playing at home would allow the University to showcase the school to an expanded audience, and thousands of opposing fans would come onto campus for potentially the first time in their lives. With one of the largest stadiums in the world, and arguably one of the most beautiful college campuses in America, The University of Alabama has a tremendous amount to show off to a national crowd. Bringing in another powerhouse team and network broadcast crew would certainly help spread such a message.
In this year’s opening weekend of college football, Notre Dame and Texas went into double overtime on campus in Austin, showing a worldwide television audience the pageantry that is a college football win in front of a cheering home crowd. In a season down the road, I encourage The University of Alabama to take part in a similar home-and-home series. The thought of someone like Miami or Oregon facing off against Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium is a football fan’s dream, and I, selfishly perhaps, hope to see such a thing once again take place.
Hunter Richey is a senior majoring in economics and political science. His column runs biweekly.